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Stories of Hope

Pictured L to R:  Toryn Provost, Mackenzie Relihan

Stories of Hope From Two Catholic High School Graduates

With so much going on in the world, the magazine reached out to two valedictorians from two Catholic high schools in the diocese to get a sense of what they were feeling as they head off to the next phase of their lives. Here are their stories:

The last several months of Toryn Provost’s high school career did not go as she expected.  For one thing, a global pandemic interrupted the normal rhythm of her days, which meant learning was done over Zoom and her valedictorian speech was videotaped.

But, as unfortunate and as challenging as the pandemic is,  she shared what she found positive about the end of her high school days: her generation thrives on using technology; her teachers did everything they could to help she and her fellow students to learn; and, she and her generation proved they were responsible and resilient.

“This whole experience showed us that, going into the future, going into jobs and colleges, that we can withstand more than we realized,” she said. “That we can adapt, and we can be resilient to these changes. … It’s given us a lot of hope.”

She views the pandemic, and the resulting downturn in the economy, not as a punishment from God, but more as a test and a re-set button.

“It’s showing us what we need to improve on more than ever, and how there are still a lot of lingering problems that we, as humans, need to face so that we can become more loving toward one another and help each grow more than we have before,” said Provost, who hopes to end up with a Master’s degree in nursing and become a certified nurse midwife.

In other words, she added, more people need to learn how to work together and “build each other up in more of a community” than ever before. The concept of community resonates with her because she has been grateful for the strong sense of community she experienced in the years she spent attending a Catholic grade school and high school. What follows then — sharing experiences with others and successfully working on tasks together— end up being more rewarding, she added, which illustrates the power   of community.

Though her early college experiences in the fall may be not  be what’s been typically experienced by college students in the past, which disappoints her, she said she hopes that a sense of unity exists with all the college students going through the same kind of disruptions across the country.

“I’m hoping that everyone realizes that everyone else is also affected,” she said, “so that it brings us into a sense of togetherness and perhaps a more sympathetic group.”

Meanwhile, at Benet Academy, the school’s valedictorian, Mackenzie Relihan, also summed up her thoughts for the future with the same word as Toryn: hope.  “You can overcome challenges with God and with a faith community if you persevere and place your trust in God,” she said.

“Forget about the things you can’t control and accept the challenges and learn from them, rather than casting them off, and use them as an opportunity to grow in faith and as a person in all aspects of life.”

The pandemic ’ s sudden appearance altered her last semester of her senior year, of course, but it made her and her classmates appreciate Benet Academy even more, she said. The pandemic also taught them to be strong and come together.

Part of her hope comes from knowing she will be able to use lessons she’s learned at Benet — in the areas of academics, friendships, and faith — to move forward and have a positive impact on the world in the future, she said. She is looking forward to attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she plans to study math and play softball. She is unsure of what career path to go down at the moment, but she knows she wants to help others.

“For me, education is really important,” she said, “and I want to spread that love of education and love of learning to other people, not just to help them academically, but to help them be able to do things for themselves and to feel empowered to chase their dreams.”